March Honors Ernest Lacy, Died in MPD Custody in 1981
62nd day of marches honor Lacy, who would have turned 62 Tuesday.
“We ready. We ready. We ready for change.”
Protesters belted out a modified version of Archie Eversole‘s 2002 hit “We Ready” as they marched into Washington Park Wednesday night.
The Lacy family awaited them. They’ve been ready for change since 1981.
It was the 62nd day of marching in Milwaukee following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. And the family had gathered to mark what should have been Ernest Lacy‘s 62nd birthday. But Lacy died at the hands of a Milwaukee police officer in 1981 at the intersection of N. 23rd St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. The several dozen protesters that greeted Lacey’s family had just left the intersection where he was was killed.
Lacy was helping a friend paint an apartment on July 9th, 1981 when the friends left to walk to a convenience store for food. Three Milwaukee Police Department officers stopped Lacy and said he fit the description of a rape suspect. Eyewitness accounts differ on what happened next, but Lacy ended up handcuffed with his arms behind his back. Witnesses said an officer pushed a knee into Lacy’s back. Placed into a police van, an individual put into the van from a separate incident told officers Lacy wasn’t breathing. An ammonia capsule placed under his nose generated no response. The medical examiner said Lacy died from a lack of oxygen.
The police department later arrested, and a jury convicted, the rapist. Lacy didn’t have any involvement in the incident. One officer was ultimately fired and four were suspended. The state adopted Lacy’s Law, which calls for officers to provide medical attention to those asking for it.
Myrtle Lacy, Ernest’s mother, is happy to see the continued push for justice. “When I see multiple generations, I realize Ernest’s death wasn’t in vain,” said Myrtle in an interview with Urban Milwaukee. “I think it’s wonderful and I think it’s needed.”
The Lacy family wants to see Lacy’s Law adopted by other states, and they want to see officers practice it. “I want police officers to get better training,” said Myrtle. “We have police officers in our family. They’re not bad people.”
Ernest’s sister Alyce Lacy said Ernest was one of seven siblings, but only four are surviving. She said the grief from Ernest’s death contributed to the deaths of two of her other siblings.
She’s hopeful change will come. “It’s not a coincidence,” said Alyce that Ernest’s 62nd birthday lines up with the 62nd day of protests.
Myrtle told Urban Milwaukee the day provided her a chance to reflect on the good her son brought to the world. She recounted receiving a letter in the mail from a white woman following Ernest’s death. Having seen Ernest in the newspaper, the woman recounted how Ernest helped flag down a bus outside Boston Store. The woman, according to Myrtle’s recounting of the letter, said she initially thought Ernest was robbing her when he demanded her bags, but learned he was a good Samaritan helping her get aboard the bus. “I thought about the goodness that he touched somebody,” said Myrtle.
Myrtle’s great-grandson True Barry, six, attended the Washington Park gathering and told Urban Milwaukee he wants to be a police officer when he grows up. A student at Milwaukee Public Schools‘ Allen-Field Elementary School, Barry said he wants to help people.
Wednesday’s march was attended by others who have lost family members at the hands of Milwaukee police officers, Sedan Smith, brother of Sylville Smith, and Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton. Protesters also called out the names of Alvin Cole, Jay Anderson and Antonio Gonzales. All three were killed by Wauwatosa police officer Joseph Mensah in a period of five years. Mensah was not disciplined in any incident, but was recently suspended following many protests in the Milwaukee suburb.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
- This Weekend’s Protests Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice - Graham Kilmer - Aug 7th, 2020
- Black Women Feel Left Out of BLM Leadership - Princess Safiya Byers - Aug 7th, 2020
- Community Trust in Police Is Broken - Corri Hess - Aug 6th, 2020
- Coalition to March on the DNC Responds to Biden’s Decision to Stay Home - Coalition to March on the DNC - Aug 5th, 2020
- MPD Defends Tear Gas Use In New Video - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 5th, 2020
- Milwaukee Police release video detailing the use of chemical agents during six civil disturbance incidents - Milwaukee Public Schools - Aug 4th, 2020
- This Weekend’s Protests Against Police Brutality - Graham Kilmer - Jul 31st, 2020
- The Idea Activists and Police Agree On - Henry Redman - Jul 30th, 2020
- Protest Day 62: March Honors Ernest Lacy, Died in MPD Custody in 1981 - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 30th, 2020
- For Members Only: Last Call for Virtual Q+A With Rep. Bowen - Maddy Day - Jul 29th, 2020
Read more about George Floyd Protests here